Friday, 28 September 2012

Styles of Cooking & Food Presentation - a Quiz

It's all very well when a restaurant menu states that a dish is served, say, a la bonne femme. But if they don't give an explanation and you're not sure, then your choice is to ignore it, risk it, or ask the staff.

Here's a multiple-choice quiz with ten food prep/presentation descriptions. Answers at the end, should there be any you don't know! And the pictures aren't necessarily clues. The terms are, of course, often applied to meat dishes, but are relevant to vegetables or meat substitutes. 'Nicoise' didn't make it, as it includes anchovies or sometimes tuna.
by Richard North via
 1  Since it's already mentioned, a la bonne femme:
       (a) produced by a female chef
       (b) rustic food served simply
       (c) with asparagus.

 2  Lyonnaise
       (a) prepared or garnished with onions
       (b) with a clear sauce of white wine and parsley
       (c) with a dark sauce containing chervil. 

 3  En Papillote
       (a) snipped to resemble a butterfly
       (b) sealed in foil or parchment and oven-cooked
       (c) encased in breadcrumbs and shallow fried.
by Sebastian Mary

4  a la Grecque
       (a) garnished with feta cheese then grilled
       (b) with olives and sundried tomatoes
       (c) vegetables cooked with herbs, olive oil, lemon juice.

5  Chasseur (or cacciatore) 
       (a) cooked in a casserole with capers
       (b) sealed in puff pastry and decorated with relevant pastry shapes
       (c) in a sauce of mushrooms, onions and white wine.

 6 Al Forno
       (a) baked or roasted in an oven
       (b) containing minced meat or meat substitute
       (c) in a rich cheese sauce topped with breadcrumbs.

7  Chevaler (or chevalier)
       (a) with each main ingredient served separately
       (b) served on toast
by Paul Esson
       (c) ingredients arranged in an overlapping pattern.    

 8  Meuniere (French: farmer's wife)       
       (a) with a sauce of shallots, tarragon and red wine
       (b) ingredients floured then fried in butter
       (c) deep fried in oil and served with a lemon sauce.

 9  Brunoise
       (a) diced and braised in butter
       (b) with a sauce made from browned/burnt flour, stock and garlic
       (c) in a thick sauce, served in a savoury pancake.

10 Provencale
       (a) a rich stew with crusty bread to mop up juices
       (b) with olive oil, tomatoes and garlic
       (c) a clear sauce, strong on rosemary, thyme and chervil.
Here are the answers:
1 (b)     2 (a)     3 (b)     4 (c)     5 (c)     6 (a)     7 (c)     8 (b)     9 (a)     10 (b)   

If you feel like it, do let me know how you got on by commenting below.

PS  Antonin Careme, in the early 1900s, declared that there are five basic sauces, and that all sauces are based on one of them. They are: Hollandaise - oil/fat and egg yolks, veloute - a thick, blond sauce of flour, stock and butter, bechamel - white sauce of flour, butter and milk, Espagnole - stock with herbs and tomatoes, and vinaigrette usually oil and vinegar. By the way, sorry no accents used with the French vocab - can't get them. Au revoir!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Chestnuts, Roasting or Otherwise - Ten Quick Facts

Wonderful sweet chestnuts are just about to come into season - usually October. They are on offer raw, cooked, candied, vacu-packed or pureed, and are really versatile. The food magazines will no doubt be giving us plenty of ways of using them in the run-up to, er, Christmas.

Here are some facts about them - good for a mention, perhaps, as everyone sits around the festive table looking forward to their nut roast wellington. Or even my lemon-stuffed cashew nut roast en croute somewhere in the history of this blog. Or whatever.

by Pauline Mak
 1  There is evidence of the cultivation of chestnuts since about 2,000 BC.

 2  Before potatoes arrived, and where wheat flour was not available, they were an
         important source of carbohydrates and could be milled into flour. The flour could be
        used to make bread, which might stay fresh for up to two weeks.

 3  Sweet chestnut trees are known in the USA as Spanish chestnuts.

 4  They have a hard outer skin, the husk or pericarpus, and a soft inner skin, the pellicle, 
         which sticks to the fruit and follows its grooves.

 5  They are enjoyed by deer, wild boar, squirrels, pigeons, jays - and the chestnut weevil.

 6  The American version weighs somewhere around 5g, and some Japanese varieties
         up to 40g. 

 7  Chestnuts can be roasted or grilled (slashing the husk first to avoid a splatting),
         peeled and deep fried until they float to the surface, boiled, or ground into flour. The
         vacu-packed versions are ready to eat, and tinned puree comes sweetened or not.

 8  They contain about 180 calories per 100g of the nut itself, lower than almonds,
         walnuts and dried fruit. There's no cholesterol or gluten, but some copper and
         vitamin C.
Marrons Glaces by Kate Hopkins
 9  Marrons glaces have been made in France since the 16th century, by softening the
         chestnuts then candying in sugar syrup. Those sold for Christmas were actually
         picked the year before. 

10 In Portugal they are traditionally eaten on St Martin's Day, November 11th, and were
         once widely to be considered to be food for the poor.

A favourite way of using these (cooked) is with chunks of mushroom, grated nutmeg and a creamy sauce, ladled over tagliatelle. But if I had an open fire, they'd be roasting by it, whether or not Jack Frost is nipping. Watch out, Merchant Gourmet, I'm after your vacu-packs already.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Courgette Fritters - my definitive recipe

It's never possible to grow just a few courgettes, it seems. Every year, food magazines roll out their recipe suggestions, and dutifully I give many of them a try. Some have been great and have made their way into my 'specials' file (named after the vegetarian restaurant I shall run when I grow up). Others have been tried and dumped, for example my stuffed courgette flowers were something and nothing and I still can't get my head around eating flowers. Also ratatouille - inevitably sloppy and lacking in guts, best whizzed into a soup is the kindest thing I can say. On the other hand, I invented courgette longboats (hollowed out and stuffed) and won a great prize for the recipe some years ago. Still make them, actually.

Aaaanyway. Here is my version of the recipe for fritters. Preparation takes about 20 minutes and frying 10-12. Hands get a bit messy but are easily rinsed. This quantity makes around 15 fritters, which could serve, say, 5 as a starter or 3 as a snack. For the full recipe, fry in 2 batches or use 2 large frying pans.
Courgette Fritters
3 medium courgettes (about 250g), ends trimmed
1 medium onion (about 100g)
2 level tbsp flour (any, but I like gram flour)
1 scant tbsp ground cumin
1 small chilli, fresh or dried (optional), finely snipped
1 egg, lightly beaten
3-4 tbsp oil for shallow frying

1  Grate the courgettes coarsely, placing the grater on 2 layers of kitchen paper so
        you can ...
2  Gather up the corners of the paper and squeeeze over the sink to extract as much
        liquid as possible. This is vital to make sure the fritters 'gel'. Place the gratings
        in a bowl and carefully remove the paper (it might try and get into the mix). An
        alternative to the kitchen paper is to put the gratings in a sieve and press hard,
        but this is less effective.
3  Peel the onion and slice finely, cutting the slices into pieces 2-3cm long, then add.
4  Add the flour, cumin, chilli (if using) and egg, and mix thoroughly.
5  Heat the oil in 1 or 2 large frying pans. When hot, place heaped tablespoonfuls of the
        mixture in, a little apart. Fry for 5-6 minutes on fairly high until well browned,
        then turn and repeat.

*               *               *               *               *

As Adam Wally used to say on children's TV, "But there's a danger element." These fritters are very light and it's a challenge not to eat more than is decent. Challenge failed in this case.